Leeds 0-1 Newcastle: Jonjo Shelvey’s free-kick proves to be the difference as Eddie Howe’s Magpies claim a huge win and go above Watford in the race to avoid Premier League relegation
At least Newcastle United can legitimately enjoy re-runs of this deserved victory from their Saudi Arabian retreat next week.
One upshot of the club’s takeover was the removal of TV piracy in the Gulf state and the return of Premier League football to the country’s main broadcast outlets. Lose here and the televisions may well have remained off inside their Jeddah training camp.
Instead, Eddie Howe’s side produced a performance to savour in the second half and recorded just their second win of the season to move to within one point of safety.
Jonjo Shelvey’s 75th minute free kick was enough to give Newcastle United the win at Leeds
In a frantic game, neither side could capitalise on the chances created until late in the match
Jonjo Shelvey was the match-winner amid a chaotic period in which the contest became a test of fitness – and Newcastle won.
The result cannot be underestimated, either, for the effect it could have on Newcastle’s transfer business during the final week of the window – the view is a lot prettier than it would have been had they lost.
It was not a classic encounter, not that it matters for Howe, who was starting to come under pressure after one win in 10 matches.
With the win, Newcastle move about Watford into 17th in their fight against relegation
The win was just Newcastle’s second of the season at the first on the road since last campaign
The first half was scrappy and can be broken down into one eye-catching save from each goalkeeper, although it was a mystery as to how Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka did not need to make more.
Leeds were the better team, in part because they weren’t as poor as Newcastle, who were ragged in possession and shape.
Dubravka’s save, on 11 minutes, denied Dan James what seemed a likely opener after he was teed up by Raphinha six yards from goal. The forward’s stab looked to have evaded the keeper until he extended an arm and clawed clear.
Amanda Staveley (centre) was among those in attendance at Leeds United on Saturday
Leeds United suffered their first league different since a 4-1 loss against Arsenal in December
Illan Meslier’s stop at the other end was less instinctive, for he had time to track Shelvey’s 20-yard volley before paddling wide. Nonetheless, it was a fine save amid a rare spell of visiting pressure.
Leeds, by contrast, saw plenty of the ball in the final third. But just when the composure of Rodrigo or cunning of Raphinha was needed, it eluded them.
Jack Harrison scored a hat-trick at West Ham last week but he, too, was strangely subdued, quietening calls for England inclusion in front of the watching Gareth Southgate.
In a blow for Eddie Howe, Newcastle’s Joelinton (right) picked up an injury in the first half
The winger did threaten midway through the second half when dashing across the area, only for his reverse shot to strike the heel of defender Fabian Schar inside the six-yard area.
By then the contest resembled a session of Bielsa’s training-ground ‘murderball’ – stretched, relentless and unforgiving. Within the space of five minutes Newcastle lost defenders Paul Dummett and Jamaal Lascelles to muscle injuries.
But Leeds were also feeling the pace and, given the threat of Allan Saint-Maximin on the break, it was Newcastle who looked the likely scorers. So it proved.
The Newcastle boss will be thankful for the winner having experienced a tough start in charge
Newcastle are jetting off to Saudi Arabia for some warm-weather training next week
From one such counter on 75 minutes, Javier Manquillo was tripped when skipping by Diego Llorente.
Shelvey sized the free-kick at an angle that seemed more appropriate for a cross but then surprised all by drilling for the bottom corner. It certainly caught out Meslier, whose gloves looked greased as the ball squirmed through them and into the net.
Having lost a league-high 21 points from winning positions, Newcastle’s subsequent resistance was unexpected yet most welcome for Howe.
The head coach hasn’t had much to smile about and the Saudi trip has also brought unwanted questions. But at least his team finally answered a few that have been asked of them.
They will be hoping to be carry their momentum into their next tie against Everton in February
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